Democrat Jesse Laslovich celebrated his victory with a “couple of Shirley Temples” Tuesday night after defeating Republican Dick Motta to become senator of District 43.
With 28 of 34 precincts reporting at midnight, Laslovich was ahead 5,685 votes to Motta’s 2,302.
Laslovich, 28, said he hopes to continue the reform of Montana’s prison system by allowing judges to choose whether a person convicted of a crime should be sentenced to prison or rehabilitation. He added that he wants to provide more funding for education and continue supporting “clean energy” bills.
He is also exploring the option of running for Senate leader in next week’s pre-session caucuses.
The Democrat’s victory galled his conservative counterpart, who said he lost because of a strong liberal constituency in District 43.
“I think Anaconda is so heavily Democratic, it pretty much eliminated the likelihood of me winning,” Motta said.
However, Motta, 69, said he is glad he gave Montanans in his district a choice.
“I at least gave Laslovich some opposition,” the retired businessman said. “I gave the people of Anaconda, Philipsburg, Drummond and Deer Lodge the opportunity to voice their opinion. That’s all I could do.”
However, Motta said he is still angry that state ethics officials have not investigated the legal residency of Laslovich.
“Jesse and his wife have lived in Helena two years,” Motta said. “I don’t care if he is going to move back to District 43. The point is; he isn’t here now.”'
Motta filed a complaint in July, but still hasn’t heard back from the Commissioner of Political Practices.
“I got pretty frustrated with the whole thing,” Motta said. “Nobody wants to get back to me on whether or not Laslovich is a resident of Montana. I think it’s a gross dereliction of their duties.”
For his part, Laslovich said that because he still maintains a permanent residency at his parents’ house in Anaconda, his candidacy is valid.
“Motta made my residency the main issue, and clearly people disagreed,” Laslovich said. “That says more than anything to me.”
Laslovich plans on finding work at a law firm in the district after the legislative session is over next spring.
“Today was a pivotal point for me,” Laslovich added. “I at least have time to line a job up before May. If all else fails, I’ll work for my dad at the construction company.”
Motta said that “it’s a sad day,” but he’s not planning on running for Senate in the future.
“What can I say?” Motta said. “I’m a loser.”